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Weighing the Odds in Sports Betting book review

Posted By: electric puha
Date: 23 Nov 07, 4:43 am

WEIGHING THE ODDS IN SPORTS BETTING – King Yao. Published: Pi Yee Press, 2007. US$19.95

I know I talk a lot, yes I'm loquacious, but I didn't realise that I could write so much either. Lol. I didn't intend for this review to be so verbose, so if you are going to read it, I suggest you grab a coffee (or an ice cold Carslberg or 2) and kick back for a few minutes. :)

p. 28:“The goal of this book is to help you better identify positive-EV and negative-EV situations”

Does Weighing the Odds in Sports Betting accomplish this goal?
I think on the whole it does, if you are a neophyte/intermediate bettor. Above this level, if you don't know the content of this book already, then you're either one lucky muchahco or you're Midas. The material has been well thought out, and is in an easy-to-read format. There is a fair bit of math, but this shouldn't scare anyone over the mental age of 6. As with every other sports betting-related books, it doesn't give you the golden goose. There is, however, the occasional golden egg. To use an egg analogy, when you break the egg, as you surely must, it's up to you whether you decide to make scrambled eggs or a soufflé. It's a huge difference. It will require a lot of effort from you, but that's what it takes to succeed at betting/gambling/life, regardless of which discipline you choose. Weighing the Odds in Sports Betting is primarily about the analysing the bet, which of course, encompasses EV, getting the best number, etc. The strongest part of the book IMO surrounds the analysis of proposition wagers. These appear to be King Yao's forte, although I'm happy to be corrected. Obviously some things slip through proof-reading and so on, and to Yao's credit, he has provided a list of changes on his blog. See link below, if you can scroll down that far :) Note: if you haven't checked the blog out, do so.

Prior to reading Weighing the Odds in Sports Betting, I'd read many of the posts by King Yao, and his pseudonym Rick Peterman, and Fezzik said in a post to one and all, on LVA to “get it”. A fairly good recommendation IMO. I placed my order and I was like a child loitering around the fireplace with his 'blanky' on Christmas Eve waiting for Santa to bring me what I asked for. I found it relatively basic, yet more 'advanced analytically' than Wong's Sharp Sports Betting and even though it appeared watered down (due to pressure from fellow sharps???) I found some good tid bits.

I've broken the review down into chapters, for greater clarity. Chapters 1-7 are general theory, chapters 8-17 cover particular sports (NFL, NBA, MLB, etc), chapter 18 is Futures, 19 & 20 contains tips for handicappers and bettors, 21 is about following handicappers and 'handicapping' their selections, rather than stalking them :), chapters 22 & 23 are miscellaneous. Last but not least, chapter 24 has an interview with a pro bettor a.k.a. The Chaperone.

Chapter 2 does exactly what it says on the back of the packet. It covers the basics: EV, M/L conversion's, etc. It may just be me, but I think more emphasis could (should?) have been given to assigning probabilities in order to identify +EV/-EV bets. It's helpful IMO to able to assign probabilities on the fly. Then again, a stats course (or book) and understanding the sport (or horses) in question would do the same thing. My reasoning is that it appears to me that numerous people new to sports betting have an inability to accurately assign probabilities to their bets and therefore overestimate (or don't make any estimate at all) their EV. IMHO the section on ROI (or ROR or whatever spin you wish to put on it) is unnecessary. It's slightly contradictory to the section on making more 53% plays, which of course will lower your ROI. FWIW I prefer units won (or lost) as a more worthy, not to mention accurate, indicator. I guess given King Yao's background, it seemed the normal thing to include. ROI certainly has its place in the financial sector, I'm just not convinced of it's applicability to betting.

Chapter 3 covers ways to win betting sports (and horses/dogs for that matter). His list covers: handicappers, those who he defines as someone who evaluates games using fundamental, situational and angle analysis. Kellen would fit this category I guess. Relative-value players are those who use information/stats, historical records, etc. Handicapper/Relative-value overlap players combine the aforementioned skills. Finally are the Bettors. Bettors rely on vigorous line shopping, having access to live line services, following fellow bettors (or sharps). The last part of the chapter concerns betting for a living. Anyone with designs on becoming a 'pro' should read and re-read it, until it is engrained in their grey matter. Part of this is “betting more 53% games”, rather than only the 55% games. This may be the cause of some confusion for the beginner. Conversely, it may not. Again, it's about assigning accurate probablities.

Chapter 4 is about the Sports Betting Market. How and why lines move and why they open where they do. Of all the chapters in this book, one part of this chapter laid a golden egg for me. It is the section covering Marking to the Market, or more simply the Market Value of the bet. It has the most value with futures betting and hedging, and provides insight into the risk of the bet. It wouldn't be a book written by a 'finance' guy if it didn't contain some reference to market efficiency and is thrown in for good measure.

Chapter 5 is Scalping and Middling. Clear examples are given of perfect, negative and imperfect scalps. Ditto for middles. Which do you get down first? The easy side or the hard side? Yao answers this correctly and well. Scalping is probably the most misunderstood form of betting and I believe Yao has lucidly differentiated between the three types of scalps. Forums seem littered with “How do I scalp” to “Is this a scalp?” It's a necessary include especially for the novice bettor. For further information on middles refer to Don Peszynski's book Win More - Lose Less which covers middling in greater depth.

Chapters 6 & 7 cover hedging. Yao comprehensively explains when and how to hedge, along with hedging mistakes, giving specific examples. Like scalping, hedging is frequently misunderstood and overused (abused). Acquaintances of mine often hedge when they bet more than their standard bet. Some people just don't seem to realise it can be -EV no matter how you explain. Go figure. Yao, does a good job of explaining the risk/reward of hedging and has a handy table that outlines 'Action to Take' when risk changes. Yao also gives good coverage to the thought process when considering hedge bets.

Chapter 8 delves into RSW. Basically it discusses projecting future lines, risk/reward, the value of a half win, line comparison and the value of vig. Again solid examples are given, including Yao's 2006 RSW prognostications for CAR and his overall RSW for 2006. I disagree with Yao's power rating formula, and this was raised by SumZero on the TwoPlusTwo forum and also on Yao's blog. I use the following Bill James method or if I'm feeling lazy, the Pythagorean formula, both of which give a more accurate win expectation:

Prob Team A Wins = ((Team A Win%*(1-Team B Win%))/((Team A Win%*(1-Team B Win%))+((1-Team A Win%)*(Team B Win%)))

Simplified: Prob Team A Wins = (Team A Win%^2/(Team A Win%^2 + Team B Win%^2))

Note: if using the Pythagorean method, be aware that the exponent varies depending on the sport. BTW finding the exponent for each sport isn't difficult. FYI the former equation relies on a .500 league.

Chapter 9 is all about NFL Parlay Cards (a.k.a. Multi bets in New Zealand). This chapter gives a fairly basic overview of Parlays including break-even rates and the advantages of playing parlays. Yao has updated the Push percentages ATS (1989-2006) and includes it in this chapter. This chapter assumes 3-team parlays at 6.5 FOR 1. At the risk of sounding like Don P's PR agent, check out his book for more detailed, mathematical analysis on parlays.

Chapter 10 is about NFL 1st Halves. I only skimmed this section and would have preferred something on 2nd half betting as I think it offers more opportunities to the bettor. Then again, this may have been a deliberate omission?! Nudge, nudge, wink, wink. There are some good tables presented: 1st half data, game vs. 1st half line and 1st half push %'s. Note: amongst the post-publication changes, Yao has a disclaimer that this chapter should not be used for pre-season NFL. This is axiomatic given that pre-season is a completely different animal to regular season.

Chapter 11 goes into Office Pools. I didn't read it because we just don't have Pools here and therefore I have, strangely for me, no opinion on it.

Chapter 12 offers the new bettor an insight into Super Bowl Props, but more importantly, how to analyse any and all prop bets. In fact, any bet for that matter. IMO this is the jewel in the crown. At the end of the day, if you are unable to research your bet, assign probabilities and logic to each scenario and make the appropriate adjustments, then this will help. Yao uses a 5-step process: understanding the prop, researching the stats, applying the math, adjusting for the market and making refinements. He covers each step in detail. There's no doubt Yao knows prop betting.

Chapter 13 (March Madness), like chapter 11, I didn't read.

Chapter 14 is NBA Playoffs. Yao describes Zig-zag theory complete with calculations. This chapter has a crossover effect that is beneficial to playoff scenarios in other sports. Yao has kindly provided an Excel spreadsheet as an addition to Prop Tools in the Links section.

Chapters 15 & 16 discuss MLB 1st halves and Totals. The rationale behind betting 1st halves rather than the full game is solid and helpful. The chapter on totals provides information on determining totals bets, push rates and the value of totals, along with a couple of helpful tables.

Chapter 17 covers the (elusive) Triple Crown, specifically, “Will a horse win the Triple Crown?” An interesting chapter even if you don't like horse racing. Yao offers advice on when to bet and the math behind it all. Again, it provides insight into how to determine whether a bet is +EV or not.

Chapter 18 pertains to Futures betting. Discussed is the time value of money, e.g. would you be better off making the bet or depositing it in the bank to accrue interest? Followed by opportunity costs, that is, can you afford to tie your money up for the period of the futures bet and potentially pass on some bets due to lack of liquidity? FWIW I have 2 BR's. 1 for futures, and the other, my main gambling account. This resolves any liquidity issues. Again, a good chapter with several examples, i.e. NFL, MLB, and CFB.

Chapters 19 & 20 are aimed at Handicappers and Bettors. Yao provides tips on when to bet; early or late, analysing angles and their affect on the line, if any, shopping, sportsbooks and some traps. Chapter 20 kicks off with ensuring you are ready for the opening lines. This too should be a given, as should 'Using Stats in Context'.

Chapter 21 relates to following Handicappers; in particular how to identify and follow winning handicappers. IMO this is an overly detailed chapter given that Weighing the Odds in Sports Betting is essentially about analysing your own bets, rather than someone else's.

Chapter 22 is titled Sports Bets in Unusual Places. Basically it covers in-house sportsbook promotions, with a couple of variances and is generally only beneficial to those in or visiting Vegas.

Chapter 23, Internet and Media, does what it says it does. It covers forums, weird-wide web sites and other forms of media and why you should take the medias 'advice' with a grain of salt.

Chapter 24 is an interview with 'The Chaperone'. From what I've read on LVA, 'The Chaperone' is an advantage bettor/aggressive shopper, rather than a handicapper. 'The Chaperone' progressed through the ranks from 'runner' to primary shot caller. This, the final chapter provides an insight into how a syndicate goes about its business. If you are searching for earth shaking revelations, you'll be disappointed. If, on the other hand you want a basic understanding of what a syndicate does, then this'll be of interest.

My verdict:
On the whole, I'd recommend Weighing the Odds in Sports Betting to anyone that wants (needs) to understand how to analyse their wagers. It's also a good companion to both Wong's book and Don P's. The prop analysis is worth the price of the book alone. Yao is clearly an intelligent man and bettor, and has made the 'community' a better place. He has potentially opened a can of worms in what he has divulged. Could he have gone into more detail? Absolutely. Should he have? Possibly, but it would have ostracised him within the 'community', particularly amongst the sharps, and no doubt, some sportsbooks. When all is said and done, I strongly believe that it is up to each individual to find out what works for them, and what doesn't. Yao has provided the shoes and a map sans contours to enable the reader to start on their journey. The route the reader takes to reach their destination is up to them. Interestingly, there is little on Teasers. Yao instead refers to Wong's book, Sharp Sports Betting.

What type of bettor is Weighing the Odds in Sports Betting aimed at?
IMO the novice/intermediate bettor is going to derive the most benefit from it. Think of it as fast-tracking your sports betting, if you will. As Yao states in the Intro, this book is not for those that want to be spoon fed. Basically, if you're not prepared to shovel a bit of coal in order to find a diamond, then this book's not for you.

To paraphrase a portion of the first paragragh of the Intro: “The purpose of this book is to give you tools to succeed at sports betting, to show you how to evaluate, compare and view sports betting from an analytical perspective, not from a gambling perspective.” I believe King Yao has successfully outlined the necessary tools to assist the reader. What the reader does with those tools, is up to them.



Messages In This Thread

Weighing the Odds in Sports Betting book review -- electric puha -- 23 Nov 07, 4:43 am
Thanx for the mentions, ep -- Don Peszynski -- 24 Nov 07, 8:49 pm
Are you the Australian version of Doxaras? :-) (nt) -- Bosey -- 25 Nov 07, 6:54 pm
LOL, I thought the exact same thing when I read that!!!!! (nt) -- DOXARAS-4- -- 25 Nov 07, 6:57 pm
what ya think of the WC draw? -- Bosey -- 25 Nov 07, 7:08 pm
It seems fairly easy but.. -- DOXARAS-4- -- 25 Nov 07, 7:31 pm
Australian! Arrrgghh! -- electric puha -- 25 Nov 07, 7:42 pm
Sheep suck... -- Goats -- 25 Nov 07, 11:25 pm
Given my line of work, you're not wrong :) (nt) -- electric puha -- 26 Nov 07, 2:38 am
Do you know Perpetual Czech by any chance? -- DOXARAS-4- -- 26 Nov 07, 7:33 am
Hey Dox, do you like questions as much as I do? lol -- electric puha -- 26 Nov 07, 9:39 pm
shoes, I love it -- King Yao -- 26 Nov 07, 11:16 pm
comment -- DOXARAS-4- -- 27 Nov 07, 8:51 am


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